Jusuf Nurkic

Jusuf Nurkic Signing With Rich Paul, Klutch Sports

Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic is hiring new representation, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, who reports (via Twitter) that Nurkic will sign with Rich Paul of Klutch Sports. Nurkic was previously repped by Aylton Tesch of Dynasty Sports.

Nurkic is only in the second season of his current four-year contract, which expires after the 2021/22 season. However, he’ll become eligible for a contract extension on July 6, 2020, two years after he signed that deal. It’s not clear whether the big man will be seeking an extension immediately upon becoming eligible, but making his agent change now could help prepare him for those negotiations.

Despite the fact that Nurkic remains under contract for multiple seasons, it makes some sense that he’s making a change. The four-year, $48MM deal he signed as a restricted free agent in 2018 with Portland was widely considered a steal for the Blazers.

Before his 2018/19 season ended with a broken leg, Nurkic was making his contract look even more team-friendly by establishing new career highs in PPG (15.6), RPG (10.4), APG (3.2), and several other categories. That leg injury will sideline him for the start of the 2019/20 campaign, but he’s considered likely to return well before the playoffs if he doesn’t experience any setbacks.

Northwest Notes: Layman, Nurkic, Davis, Grant

The Timberwolves‘ sign-and-trade deal for Jake Layman didn’t earn any accolades as one of the summer’s key moves, but Layman’s new team can’t stop raving about him, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. As Krawczynski explains, Minnesota loves Layman’s athleticism, his ability to play multiple positions, and the way he can complement star player Karl-Anthony Towns.

“A lot of our offensive creativity is going to be with Karl and the ball in his hands, whether that’s top of the key in a lot of our series or even at the elbows or even out of the post,” Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said. “Guys that can space the floor, run the floor, cut away from the basket with high IQs are going to be important for us. A guy like Jake Layman can really do that and has done that throughout his career.”

It remains to be seen whether Layman will come off the bench or if he’ll crack the starting lineup alongside Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Robert Covington, and Jeff Teague. Either way, he figures to play a regular role in the Timberwolves’ rotation after being acquired in July from their division rivals in Portland.

Let’s round up a few more Northwest notes…

  • Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, who continues to rehab after breaking his leg last season, won’t be available to start the season, but says his leg has been pain-free for several months, per Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. Portland’s head of basketball operations Neil Olshey said this week that he’s being “purposefully vague” about the big man’s recovery timeline, since the team wants to avoid “Nurk Watch 2019.”
  • Ed Davis won’t be able to fully replicate Derrick Favors‘ skill set as the Jazz‘s new backup center, but Davis believes he can provide value to his new team in his own way, as Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune relays. “I’m gonna be myself — I’m not here to replace [Favors], I’m coming here to be myself, I’m gonna do what I do,” Davis said. “Being available, for one; being consistent; toughness; I’m gonna give it all I got. I’m not the most skilled player, but I’d say I’m one of the toughest players in the league, so you’re gonna get that every night.”
  • New Nuggets forward Jerami Grant, who said at Media Day that he’s not worried about what his exact role will be for his new team, acknowledged that he wasn’t too broken up about being traded by the retooling Thunder, according to Kyle Fredrickson of The Denver Post. “I don’t think (the trade) was too difficult,” Grant said. “It was almost good to get out of a sinking ship.”
  • Robert Covington admitted this week that his physical health issues last season affected his mental health, telling reporters – including Kent Youngblood of The Star Tribune – that he saw a therapist to deal with his frustration at being sidelined. Heading into a new season, the Timberwolves forward says he’s feeling good both physically and mentally.

Heat Acquire Jimmy Butler In Sign-And-Trade

The Heat have officially acquired Jimmy Butler from the Sixers in a sign-and-trade deal that also includes the Trail Blazers and the Clippers, according to press releases from Miami and Philadelphia.

The Heat also acquired big man Meyers Leonard from the Trail Blazers and cash considerations from the Clippers. Miami sent shooting guard Josh Richardson to Philadelphia, center Hassan Whiteside to the Blazers and a conditional first-round pick to the Clippers. The Clippers also received forward Maurice Harkless from Portland and the draft rights to 2017 second-round pick Mathias Lessort from the Sixers.

The Clippers and Blazers have also confirmed the swap.

The 2023 first-rounder that the Heat forwarded to the Clippers, which is lottery-protected through 2025 and unprotected in 2026, was subsequently moved to the Thunder as part of the agreed-upon Paul George blockbuster.

Butler inked a four-year, $141MM contract with the Heat. Miami waived forward Ryan Anderson and stretched his contract in order to stay below the hard cap and complete the sign-and-trade.

“Jimmy’s leadership, tenacity, professionalism, defensive disposition and his ability to create his own shot will improve our roster immediately,” Miami president Pat Riley said in the press release. “Any time you can add a four-time All-Star to your roster, you make that move. Meyers is a versatile big, a great shooter, can play inside and block shots. The addition of both men puts us in a great position to win.”

The disgruntled Butler was dealt by Minnesota to Philadelphia last season. The Sixers wanted to retain Butler but couldn’t convince him to stay and got something for him via the sign-and-trade mechanism. In 65 total games for the Wolves and Sixers last season, Butler averaged 18.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.0 APG, and 1.9 SPG with a .462/.347/.855 shooting line. Richardson averaged a career-high 16.6 PPG and 4.1 APG last season.

Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey called the acquisition of Whiteside an “impact move for our roster.” The Blazers were looking for a starting center with Jusuf Nurkic on the mend from a serious leg injury.

Blazers Notes: Ownership, Nurkic, Hood, Kanter

While there’s a perception in NBA circles that the Trail Blazers‘ ownership situation is unsettled in the wake of Paul Allen‘s death last fall, the team’s head of basketball operations, Neil Olshey, doesn’t subscribe to that notion, as Jason Quick of The Athletic relays.

“Nothing is unsettled. Jody is our owner,” Olshey said during the Blazers’ exit interviews, referring to Paul’s sister Jody Allen. “She has been fantastic in terms of engagement. She has addressed the team when we’ve asked her to. She was really emotional after the OKC series, that was the validation, knowing how much Paul believed in the core of this group and to see it come to fruition.

“Jody stepped up and spoke to the team in a way that resonated with everybody and struck a chord with the players and staff and everyone there that she has our back, she has a vision for the franchise, she believes in the group, she cares about the players, and the magnitude of what she has had to take on,” Olshey continued, per Quick. “At a time when we needed ownership to show solidarity with the front office, the coaching staff, the business division, she was there for us.”

Allen has exhibited that commitment to the franchise since Portland’s season ended earlier this month, having locked up Olshey and head coach Terry Stotts to contract extensions.

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • According to Olshey (via Quick), injured Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic is making “great progress” from his broken left leg. While the team hasn’t offered a specific recovery timetable for Nurkic, Quick speculates that the big man could be ready to return to action sometime just before next season’s All-Star break. “Guys can’t believe where he is relative to what they saw only four weeks ago,” Olshey said of Nurkic. “He is a core piece to this roster, a foundational piece going forward, and we are going to drive him. But also knowing we are going to do what’s best for Nurk on a long-term basis in terms of his recovery and his timeline.”
  • The Blazers aren’t expecting to be able to retain Rodney Hood or Enes Kanter using the taxpayer mid-level exception (projected to be worth about $5.7MM), writes Quick. If the club can shed enough salary to gain access to the full mid-level exception – or Hood and Kanter don’t receive as much interest as anticipated – Hood would likely be the priority over Kanter, in Quick’s view.
  • Quick doesn’t expect the Blazers’ three big expiring contracts for Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard, and Maurice Harkless to garner a ton of interest on the trade market this offseason, contending that they could become more intriguing trade chips during the season.
  • Former St. John’s guard Shamorie Ponds is set to work out for the Trail Blazers on Friday, tweets Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com. According to Quick, Portland will likely only hold “three or four” pre-draft workouts since the club has just one pick (No. 25) in this year’s draft.

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Nurkic, Tolliver, Jensen

Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum has been sidelined with a left popliteus strain since March 16, but has ramped up his on-court work as he nears a potential return, writes Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com. McCollum still wasn’t ready to commit to a specific return date, but sounded optimistic that he won’t be on the shelf for much longer.

“I think, having did some stuff today, I’m going to see how my body reacts, try to get through this week, see where I’m at and kind of go from there,” McCollum said on Wednesday. “When I first got hurt there were some dates that I kind of circled and I’m getting close to them, so I’ll see how I feel. But the biggest thing for me is to make sure I’m symptom-free, make sure I don’t have any lingering issues before I step back on the court.”

With four games left in the season, Portland has a two-game cushion on Utah for the No. 4 seed. The Blazers will finish their season against the Nuggets (twice), the Lakers, and the Kings as they look to secure home court advantage for the first round — it remains to be seen whether McCollum will be able to get back for any of those games.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Trail Blazers recorded their 50th win on Wednesday night, which means that injured center Jusuf Nurkic has officially earned a $1.25MM bonus. As Bobby Marks of ESPN.com details, Portland is now on the hook for another $2.19MM in tax costs, though that number will decrease a little when Maurice Harkless fails to shoot 35% on threes. Nurkic’s cap hit for 2019/20 will rise from $12MM to $13.25MM, since that 50-win bonus is now considered “likely” for next season.
  • When the Timberwolves faced the Mavericks last night, Anthony Tolliver could have been playing against the Wolves rather than for them, notes Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News, who tweets that he thinks Minnesota should have accepted Dallas’ trade offer of J.J. Barea and a second-round pick. Wolfson has previously reported that the Thunder and Raptors offered second-round picks attached to Patrick Patterson and C.J. Miles, respectively, for Tolliver, but those deals would’ve taken the Wolves into the tax.
  • In a discussion at The Athletic, Britt Robson and Jon Krawczynski look ahead to the Timberwolves’ offseason, examining the return from the Jimmy Butler trade, Ryan Saunders‘ future, and much more.
  • Jazz assistant Alex Jensen interviewed for the head coaching position at BYU this week, league sources tell Tony Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link). Jeff Goodman of Stadium (Twitter link) first identified Jensen as a potential frontrunner for BYU.

And-Ones: Nurkic, Bonuses, Draft, Poirier

Jusuf Nurkic‘s season came to an early end this week when he suffered a horrific leg injury that figures to sideline him for much of the 2019/20 campaign as well. While it was a devastating blow for Nurkic and the Trail Blazers, the veteran center might get a bit of good news before the regular season.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN.com details in an Insider-only story, Nurkic will earn a $1.25MM bonus if Portland records at least 50 wins this season. The Trail Blazers’ record currently sits at 47-27, giving the team eight more games to win three more games, which seems like a reasonable bet. If Nurkic does earn that bonus, the Blazers’ projected tax bill will increase by more than $2MM and the big man’s cap hits in future seasons would rise, Marks notes.

Marks has the details on several other potential incentives within his article, noting that Clint Capela (Rockets) and Kyle Lowry (Raptors) will earn bonuses of $1MM and $500K respectively if their teams reach the conference finals. Lowry, who must appear in five of Toronto’s last six games to achieve his bonus, also gets a $500K incentive if the Raptors reach the NBA Finals and another $500K if they win the title.

Let’s round up a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world…

  • Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson are two of the most successful players in NBA history, but they’ve yet to achieve much success as executives for the Hornets and Lakers respectively. Shaun Powell of NBA.com takes a look at how the two NBA legends are trying to turn their teams into winners.
  • The NCAA has made some changes to its rules for early entrants this year, as underclassmen are now permitted to hire agents while they test the draft waters and retain their NCAA eligibility. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Insider link) breaks down the new rules, with multiple agents weighing in on the pros and cons of the changes for young prospects.
  • French big man Vincent Poirier, who plays for Baskonia in Spain, said in an interview with RMC Sports that there are NBA clubs with interest in him, as Orazio Cauchi of Sportando relays. It’s not clear which teams those are, or whether they’ll attempt to bring him stateside once his contract with Baskonia expires.

Blazers Lose Jusuf Nurkic With “Devastating” Injury

2:55pm: Nurkic underwent surgery to repair his compound fractures today, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. While Nurkic has been ruled out indefinitely, the good news is that there was no nerve or muscle damage in his leg, league sources tell Charania.

8:57am: Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic suffered compound fractures to his left tibia and fibula last night, putting him out of action for the rest of the season and probably well into next season, writes Joe Freeman of The Oregonian.

The injury occurred in the second overtime of a win over the Nets as Nurkic landed on several players after jumping for a rebound. The crowd went silent before chanting Nurkic’s name in a show of support. Teammates turned away because of the gruesome nature of the injury.

“It made me sick to my stomach,” Damian Lillard said.

After a long examination by trainers and team doctors, Nurkic received a huge ovation as he was carried off on a stretcher. Coach Terry Stotts called the injury “devastating” as it casts a shadow over the rest of the season for a Portland team that clinched a playoff spot with the victory.

“It’s terrible,” Zach Collins said. “Obviously you never want to see that happen, especially with your own teammate that you go to war with every night. Nurk, he’s been having a hell of a season. He had an amazing game tonight. And for it to end like that for him, it’s just tough. All we can do is be there for him and hope he’s in as little pain as possible and knows that we’ve got his back.”

At age 24, Nurkic was putting together his best season, averaging career highs with 15.6 PPG and 10.4 RPG. He is signed for nearly $25MM over the next two seasons and has a non-guaranteed $12MM salary for 2021/22. His absence should create a greater role for Enes Kanter, who signed with Portland last month after reaching a buyout with the Knicks.

Players from around the NBA sent messages of support on social media last night, while the Trail Blazers struggled to deal with the impact of losing a beloved teammate and a vital part of their hopes for the postseason.

“I’m going to go home and pray for him because this is way bigger than basketball,” Kanter said. “We clinched a playoff spot and we’re not even celebrating. He was a big part of our family — not our team, our family — and I just don’t know what to say. It’s definitely tough.”

Pacific Notes: Rondo, Ingles, Cousins, Shumpert, Divac

Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo has been cleared to practice, Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet tweets. The Lakers will not practice prior to their game against Houston on Saturday, so Rondo’s first practice will be delayed until at least Sunday. Rondo hasn’t played since Christmas Day due to a torn ligament in his right ring finger. Rondo, who will be an unrestricted free agent once again this summer, underwent surgery on December 28th.

We have more from around the Pacific Division:

  • Clippers coach Doc Rivers still rues the day the franchise let Joe Ingles go, Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News reports. Ingles was the team’s last cut during 2014 training camp because the roster was already filled with guarantee contracts. Ingles has since emerged as a key piece for the Jazz. “I said it the day we released him that this was a bad decision and that we’re going to regret it,” Rivers said. “Unfortunately  I was working for someone who said we couldn’t eat a contract. We were begging to eat one contract and they said that will never happen and we had to let him go.”
  • The Warriors know there will be adjustment period once DeMarcus Cousins returns to action but they’re confident he’ll eventually fit in, Nick Friedell of ESPN writes. Like many of the team’s stars, Cousins is used to having the ball in his hands frequently. They’ll all have to learn to share it even more with a dominant low-post scorer in the lineup. “Obviously, we want him to be himself,” Stephen Curry said. “We want him to be that player that he knows he can be. Bring that specific and unique skill set to kind of change our look a little bit. We have high-IQ guys all over the floor that will be able to figure it out. It might not be smooth at the beginning because it is going to be different, but he brings another element that we’ve never had before.”
  • Kings guard Iman Shumpert denies that he tried to enter Portland’s locker room in a confrontation manner on Monday, he tweets. Shumpert was apparently upset at Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic for setting a hard pick on him but said he merely wanted to talk things out. “I was respectful of their team’s space and privacy. I waited outside and asked to have a conversation. I was greeted by team security that talked to me and I left.”
  • Kings GM Vlade Divac confirms that he told minority owners to stop meddling in the team’s affairs, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee tweets. Divac made his feelings known during a conference call with members of the team’s executive board. “I just told them about my plan,” he informed Anderson. When asked if he told those owners to stop meddling and leaking stories, he replied, “Yeah, that’s my plan.”

Trail Blazers Rumors: Stotts, Lillard, Collins

After their 2017/18 season ended with a four-game sweep at the hands of the Pelicans in the first round of the postseason, the Trail Blazers came close to firing head coach Terry Stotts, sources tell ESPN’s Zach Lowe. Portland was close enough to making a move that teams like the Suns begin reaching out to intermediaries to gauge Stotts’ potential interest in their own coaching openings.

However, while ownership seriously considered a change, president of basketball operations Neil Olshey and star point guard Damian Lillard fought for Stotts, according to Lowe.

“I was asked what I thought, and I just said I love him as a coach,” Lillard said of Stotts. “We all love him.”

Lowe’s piece takes a deep dive into the Trail Blazers’ culture, as he notes that Lillard and C.J. McCollum “tolerate no squabbling, or blame games.” That attitude permeates the organization from top to bottom, according to Lowe, who points to the relationship between Olshey and Stotts as another example.

Although the two team leaders haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on everything, they’ve developed an understanding that Olshey will avoid players who don’t fit Stotts’ style and Stotts will coach the players he gets. As a result of their relationship, Lowe explains, players will never see Olshey and Stotts at odds in any serious way, as the organization emphasizes a drama-free and resentment-free culture.

Here’s more from Lowe on the Blazers:

  • The Blazers’ late owner Paul Allen, who passed away last month, addressed the team in the wake of its first-round exit, calling the four-game sweep “unacceptable,” sources tell Lowe. Based on the language and the tone, people within the organization were nervous that a major shakeup was coming during the offseason.
  • Allen was ultimately convinced to give everyone – including Stotts and the Blazers’ core – one more season, while team management and coaches vowed to make changes heading into 2018/19. Namely, as Lowe details, Portland wanted to surround Evan Turner with more shooting on the second unit, re-shuffle the rotation to get Lillard and McCollum more playing time together, and get off to a faster start this season. So far, that plan is going well.
  • The Blazers still want to find a way to supplement their Lillard/McCollum duo with a third impact player, sources around the NBA tell Lowe. Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic have emerged as perhaps Portland’s most valuable trade chips, but the club doesn’t want to trade Collins and “almost certainly won’t” anytime soon, Lowe reports.
  • Lowe identifies Khris Middleton and Tobias Harris as the type of player who would appeal to the Blazers, though acquiring either of those guys in a trade or as a free agent would be an extreme long shot. Forwards like Otto Porter of the Wizards and Taurean Prince of the Hawks may be more realistic trade targets, Lowe notes.
  • Lillard still believes the Blazers are capable of reaching greater heights during his tenure with the team. “Good things come to good people, even if you get swept somewhere along the way,” he tells Lowe. “This is what goes through my mind: I’m gonna be in my 11th year or something here, I’m gonna stick with it, and we’re gonna make the Finals.”

Contract Notes: Jokic, Gordon, Nurkic, Jazz

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic didn’t technically sign a maximum-salary contract when he re-upped with the club this summer, but he can increase his 2018/19 earnings to the maximum if he helps lead Denver to postseason success.

As ESPN’s Bobby Marks details (subscription required), Jokic is one of several NBA players with incentives in their contracts for the coming season. In Jokic’s case, he’s currently about $862K shy of his maximum salary, but he can earn $431K if the Nuggets advance to the playoffs, and another $431K if they win in the first round.

Here are a few more details from Marks on this season’s incentives and bonuses:

  • Aaron Gordon has a potential path to an All-Star nod in an Eastern Conference that lost more top talent this offseason. Gordon’s new contract with the Magic calls for a $500K bonus if he’s named an All-Star, per Marks. He could also further increase his earnings by being named to the All-NBA and All-Defense teams at season’s end.
  • Jusuf Nurkic can earn an extra $1.25MM this season if he appears in 70 games and the Trail Blazers crack the 50-win threshold, according to Marks. Nurkic played in 79 games last season, but because Portland only had 49 wins, this incentive is considered unlikely and doesn’t currently count against Nurkic’s cap hit.
  • Davis Bertans has to meet several criteria in order to earn a $250K bonus on his new contract with the Spurs — the veteran forward must play in 70 games, make 165 three-pointers, and average 6.5 defensive rebounds per 36 minutes, as Marks details.
  • Dante Exum, Raul Neto, and Derrick Favors all have incentives on their new deals with the Jazz, with a focus on games played — they all must appear in at least 67 games to start earning their bonuses. Favors, in particular, has plenty riding on his performance, as he can earn $2.8MM in incentives. Of those incentives, $900K are considered likely and already count against his cap charge.
  • Marks also notes that several players will have a chance to become eligible for super-max contracts with their current clubs if they make All-NBA teams this season. That list includes Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Draymond Green (Warriors), Klay Thompson (Warriors), Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers), and Kemba Walker (Hornets). Additionally, Devin Booker‘s new extension with the Suns would start at 27.5% of the cap if he’s named to the All-NBA Third Team, 28.5% if he’s named to the Second Team, and 30% for First Team.